My Next Book
The most endangered mammal on Planet Earth, the animal most threatened with extinction at this moment is the world’s smallest porpoise, the vaquita, whose habitat is limited to the northern reaches of the Gulf of California, the finger of ocean lying between Baja and mainland Mexico.
I came across this endangered creature doing research for my next book, a novel I’d decided would be a kids’ book with a universal theme based on contemporary events. It occurred to me that having animal characters would make the story more interesting and then thought perhaps using a species threatened with extinction would tie the story to contemporary life challenges. Sadly, I found there are far too many endangered species situations.
An internet search turned up dozens of rapidly disappearing creatures, most often the result of some sort of human interference with their lives. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but since it’s going to be a kids’ book, it seemed the critter might best be at least a bit cute. I immediately passed over the giant panda as too much in the public spotlight, I wanted something more exotic. There’s the amur leopard, a rare big cat living in Siberia, perhaps only forty left in the wild. Close but not quite the geography I was looking for. Then there is the axototl salamander, a rare species known for its unique ability to regrow removed limbs. Magical powers, yes, but lacking in the “cute” department. Then there was the blue gooty spider, a large fuzzy tarantula that inhabits a small sanctuary in India. Again, not quite the cuddly creature I was looking for.
Eventually, I came across the vaquita porpoise, the smallest of all porpoises with a distinctive black mask around its eyes, sort of a swimming “Zorro.s” This rare sea creature, only about one hundred vauita are thought to currently exist, felt perfect for several reasons.
First, I’ve spent lots of my life with water. Water worlds attract me and I’m familiar with them. Next, the vaquita exists in a unique part of the Gulf of California in Mexico and I feel a closeness to the Mexican culture. Yes, my wife and many family are Mexican and my Spanish is passable in brief bar encounters. Lastly, the plight of the vaquita is a familiar one. It is disappearing because of overfishing, in this case for another endangered species, the totaba, a fish prized for its swim bladder by Chinese. The vaquita is too often caught in the same gill nets used to catch the prized, although illegal, totoaba.
Feels like a solid start. I can write about a world I’m familiar with. My main character is a creature that will be easy for kids to relate to, and the storyline will deal with a conflict that is universal. Now it’s up to me to create a tale that tells how humans can adapt to build a world in which people and porpoises can live in sustainable harmony.
I’ve already launched into the first draft. Stay tuned for “The Perils of Payeto.”
Interested in how to save the vaquita porpoise? Check out this link:
Find out more about other endangered species by slicking this link:
13 endangered species
Yours to count on,
I would consider writing your book not only in English but also in Spanish. I have seen books for young readers where one book is bilingual. They did this by one page being in English and the next one with the same dialog but written in Spanish. It may reach more children that way. Great idea!
Great idea! I’d only thought about this sideways previously, but at this point in the story’s development, it feels like the fun thing to do. Thanks for the nudge!